HomeBoat InsuranceBoaters Should Take Heed of Hurricane Outlook

Boaters Should Take Heed of Hurricane Outlook

(Photo by Jack Reynolds)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently released its official predictions for the 2024 hurricane season, indicating this could be one of the most active on record.

While the season started on June 1 and runs through Nov. 30, usual peak activity occurs in August and September. However, storms have formed before the official start date over the past 10 years.

“As a third-generation captain, I have seen the devastation that a storm can cause,” said Capt. John Ward, owner of Sea Tow Services International, which has a station in Waretown. “I’m happy to offer tips for boaters to consider when making their storm plan. There are critical steps to take with each stage of a storm, but most important is preparation well in advance.”

He said boaters should keep in mind services in the area must prepare, too, and will shut down in advance of the storm. If a boater depends on the services of others to assist with their vessel, Ward said to provide them with enough time so they can also help themselves. Another step is to arrange a prepaid haul-out service for the vessel.

“Some marinas have waiting lists of more than 150,” said Ward. “Boaters most likely will not be able to find a marina to haul and store a boat a few days before a storm is predicted to make landfall. If the boat cannot be hauled out, move it to a ‘hurricane hole’ to ride out the storm. A ‘hurricane hole’ is a spot relatively sheltered from wind and storm surge. That location should be determined long before an impending storm is even a conversation. For the storm plan, be sure to calculate the time and travel to get there and how the vessel will be secured.”

He said if the boat is stored at a marina, the boater must know and understand the marina management’s storm plan and its obligations. Ward said the boater should review the marina’s boat insurance policy and its coverages. Some require a hurricane plan prior to a storm approaching.

“If leaving the boat in its slip, double up all lines so that if one breaks, there’s a secondary in place to hold the boat,” he said. “Once the boat is in position to ride out the storm, lower all VHF and radio antennas so that they are down. Remove all vinyl windows and Bimini tops. Duct tape the deck hatches down. If they are not sealed and if the wind catches, the latch can break and open up, ultimately ruining the interior of the boat.”

Ward said once the storm has passed and the boat is back underway, be mindful of debris. Anything can land in the water, such as trees, refrigerators or cars, and become an unmarked hazard. There should also be a plan in place in the event a home dock is displaced or destroyed.

“If a boat is damaged by a storm, it is important to work with local, licensed and insured companies only,” he said. “Sea Tow has the experience to safely recover property and has established relationships with most marine insurers to work with directly for a stress-free process.”

For specific questions about hurricane preparation or post-storm recovery, call 609-660-7777.  —E.E.

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